Eugène-Marin Labiche was one of the top comic playwrights of the 19th century. He wrote more than 175 farces, most of them focusing on the bourgeios class. Although full of dramatic devices, Labiche’s plays provided true insight into human nature and raised the genre to a new level. The best of his works include Le Chapeau de paille d’Italie (1851; The Italian Straw Hat); Le Misanthrope et l’Auvergnat (1852); Le Voyage de M. Perrichon (1860; The Journey of Mr. Perrichon); and La Poudre aux yeux (1861; “The Bluff”), which is now presented at the Kammerspiele in Tobias Haberkorn’s new translation.
The Kammer 2 stage is dominated by a massive glittering pyramid, placed upside down (stage design by Jonas von Ostrowski). Standing in a row, on a pale pink carpet, are a cast of eight, dressed in garish costumes by Elke von Sivers. Meet the Malingear and Ratinois families. With an ingenious idea of cross-gender casting, director Felix Rothenhäusler presents Annette Paulmann as the unsuccessful doctor Hubert Malingear and Nils Kahnwald as his ambitious wife Ermelinde. Young Frédéric Ratinois (Samouil Stoyanov) – a lawyer without clients who is more interested in museums than courts of law – is wooing the Malingear daughter Emmeline (Zeynep Bozbay), who enjoys singing Miley Cyrus songs in a rather nonchalant way.
Soon Emmeline and Frédéric ‘s parents pretend to play in a much higher league to impress each other and become boundless in their praise for their children. Emmeline suddenly turns into an expert in music and painting, Hubert Malingear presents himself as a “Trend Doctor”, whereas former confectioner Herbert Ratinois (Marie Rosa Tietjen) introduces himself as a man of independent means. Herbert’s wife Emilia-Amalia (Wiebke Puls) spontaneously invites the Malingears for dinner, ordering delicacies from the most expensive restaurant with Herbert insisting on truffles with almost every single dish. The only problem is that Uncle Robert (Risto Kübar), an embarrassing timber merchant, has announced his visit.
The actors remain standing in one line throughout most of the performance. Under Felix Rothenhäusler’s concise direction, every little gesture is imbued with meaning, every facial expression is used to the greatest comic effect as the characters risk everything to impress their alleged betters, spiralling completely out of control. One has to go to the opera to be seen, no matter how often Rigoletto is shown. The dowry negotiations resemble an auction where the price – or ruin – goes to the highest bidder. Annette Paulmann is a delight as the hapless doctor who becomes an impostor, driven by his ambitious wife, and ends up enjoying every minute of it.
A highly entertaining farce that shines a light upon a society forcing people to pretend and live beyond their means so they can be part of the “in-crowd” and hopefully make it to the top. 4/5
Review written by Carolin Kopplin.
Trüffel, Trüffel, Trüffel will next be shown on 22nd November 2017. For more information on the production, visit here…
This production is in German without subtitles.